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Washington Health Benefit Exchange Selects Organizations for In-Person Customer Support Program

$6 Million in Grant Funds Awarded to Help Consumers Enroll in a Health Plan that Fits Their Needs and Budget

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced the selection of lead organizations to provide in-person assistance as part of the Washington Healthplanfinder Customer Support Program. Washington Healthplanfinder is a new way for people to find, compare and enroll in health insurance in Washington starting Oct., 1, 2013.

Ten organizations, including public health agencies, coalitions, regional health networks, and other community organizations, were chosen statewide to help residents enroll in a qualified health plan starting Oct. 1, 2013 for coverage that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Lead organizations will share in the close to $6 million in grants funds being provided by the Exchange. These organizations and their service areas include:

  • Benton Franklin Community Action Connections: Serving Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla Counties
  • CHOICE Regional Health Network: Serving Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston Counties
  • Clark County Public Health: Serving Clark, Klickitat and Skamania Counties
  • Cowlitz Family Health Center: Serving Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties
  • Empire Health Foundation: Serving Adams, Asotin, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln,  Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Spokane and Whitman Counties
  • Kitsap Public Health District: Serving Kitsap County
  • Public Health – Seattle & King County: Serving King County
  • Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Serving Pierce County
  • Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement: Serving Island, San Juan , Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom Counties
  • Yakima Neighborhood Health Services: Serving Kittitas and Yakima Counties

"This is another example of Washington State being ahead of the curve – making sure our residents have a marketplace where they can get the health insurance they need and want. This consumer support is essential to getting every Washington resident covered so they can get the health care they need," said Gov. Jay Inslee.

Lead organizations will provide residents with impartial information to help them determine which health insurance option best fits their needs. These efforts may take place through in-person meetings, online communications and over the phone. Lead organizations will also be responsible for building and overseeing a network of partners in their region to serve Washington's diverse populations.

"We are excited to partner with such knowledgeable and trusted organizations that are experts at reaching people in their communities," said Richard Onizuka, Ph.D., CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. "Their work will help connect hundreds of thousands of people with quality health coverage – many for the first time."

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange will be requiring certification for those providing assistance and will lead curriculum development and training efforts to effectively educate each lead organization and ensure statewide consistency. These organizations will then be responsible for training their partner networks. All in-person assisters will need to pass a certification exam before working with consumers.

"Our goal is nothing less than the full enrollment of those uninsured who will become eligible for health insurance next year," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "With this grant, we can create a 'culture of coverage' in King County."

Washington has received a total of $6 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a robust in-person assistance program to serve residents in all areas of the state. The Exchange also expects to receive $1.6 million in in-kind contributions from lead organizations in the form of additional staff and other agency resources.

"The Exchange is fortunate to partner with community organizations who are eager to help make health care coverage a reality for the individuals and families they serve. These organizations are the best way to reach people who are not likely to use a website or call center, but who need one-on-one assistance to help them learn about their options and enroll in coverage," said Kelly Boston, Navigator Manager for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Washington Healthplanfinder will allow individuals, families and small businesses to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health insurance plans, determine if they are eligible for low-cost or free options, and choose the plan that fits their needs and their budget. In addition to the lead organizations and their networks, residents will also be able to access customer support through the Washington Healthplanfinder Call Center or their insurance broker.

More information about Washington Healthplanfinder and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is available at www.wahbexchange.org or www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

About the Washington Health Benefit Exchange

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is a public-private partnership established in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) with the goal to redefine people's experience with health care through the creation of a new health insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses. The Exchange is separate from the state and governed by an independent 11-member board appointed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire in Dec. 2011.

About Washington Healthplanfinder

Washington Healthplanfinder will be a new online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage and gain access to tax credits, reduced cost sharing and public programs such as Medicaid. Washington Healthplanfinder will begin enrolling consumers on Oct. 1, 2013, for health insurance coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.

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